In 2008, I was contacted by the Art Instructor at Wilmot Grade School in Deerfield, IL. She was interviewing Artists for an upcoming project and had found me online - interested in my personality and art. Her name was Penny and we met several times discussing topics such as trompe-l'oeil, working with kids and just art in general. When two souls come together with a passion for art...the meetings would last for hours. We became good friends and talked about lots of different kinds of art and application.
Penny was retiring and wanted to make a lasting positive mark on the school for her many years of creative and wonderful service. She had arranged to get artistic grants through the Educational System to fund the project. Wilmot School is a Northern suburban Chicago based grade school of 500 students (K-5). I was commissioned to teach the entire student body:
What was decorative art? What is trompe-l'oeil? Basics of painting? Processes involved in creating a trompe-l'oeil? Students were to work through the steps above and execute a 16'x30+' trompe-l'oeil in the middle stairwell of the school.
On a personal note.... I have no children. While I love kids and my childhood was nothing less than a Mark Twain daily adventure....my personal experiences working with kids can be measured on one hand. What began as engaging and fun on all our parts...became an exciting artistic adventure and when it was finished I was the one left wanting more.
In two weeks of the creative phase of this project...the students used multiple layers of venetian plaster to fill in the joints in between the bricks, creating a smooth workable surface. They created rough layouts for the art, presented concepts, discussed illusions. They were taught how my paint method to create trompe-l'oeil limestone blocks and executed these from the stippling process clear through to the tiny details in each rock joint.
In short....these kids were wonderful and the experience was joyful for me. I was brought 4 new students every 20 minutes with the entire student body; 500 kids, all wanting to have their hands on a paint brush and be part of the artwork process. It was also a nerve-wracking wild ride akin to herding rabbits. I learned the less control I exerted....the better the artflow and creativity. In other words...a little instruction on my part and then I had to just step back and watch them create.
For example; in my professional art life, I handle my tools with care and precision and while my connection to a nice artist brush was different than a typical 2nd grader - I learned on the spot that this event wasn't for my benefit. This experience was for the students of Wilmot and if a few artist brushes had to be sacrificed along the way...what an incredible experience for these children.
I am amazed at what this student body created. The art is on my website and to this day no one really believes that these young minds and multiple hands created this art work. This was a great art project for all of us...As for myself...it was life changing.
To create a building (for example), I would break complex ideas down into simple steps. A building was really a square. We'd discuss where the light source was coming from...what is a shadow and a highlight. We'd mask off each square and paint it according to the light source and shadowing from other structures. Then add windows. Roofs were handled the same way. Reflections in the water were blurry upside down images...everything; when broken down into simple steps could be handled by these little minds.
*On a very personal note: This posting on my website about Wilmot School was done immediately after the art project was completed. That would have been the late spring of 2008. My Dad was my web master and anything I created or was involved in...he would put on my art web site instantly. Later that same year he would be diagnosed with cancer. He never saw the middle of August.
My website is full of typo's and dead links....even on his last couple of months with us...Dad was still tinkering on my website, making it the best he could create out of love for his son. It's the finest gift from Dad I could have ever asked for.